Charlie Brice

Charlie Brice is the winner of the 2020 Field Guide Magazine Poetry Contest and is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (2021), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net Anthology and three times for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta ReviewChiron ReviewPangolin ReviewThe Sunlight PressSparks of Calliope, and elsewhere.

Coin Collection

I had a collection of nickels, dimes and quarters
neatly tucked into slots on those green pages.
I remember Indian head nickels and Mercury dimes. 

I was never ardent, never obsessed enough—couldn’t
get excited about that kind of change. The change
that rocked me was produced by four lads from Liverpool:

I Want to Hold Your Hand, Please Please Me, She Loves You.
Their forty-fives cost fifty cents apiece. My coin collection
was gone before you could twist or shout.

Fifty years later, when my mother’s mind set off 
for nowhere land, I flew back to Cheyenne to spring 
her from the booby hatch, close-up my childhood home, 

and arrange her affairs, so I could get back to Pittsburgh
with her in tow—another day in the life. At the American 
National Bank where mother had a safety deposit box,

I almost collapsed carrying it to a table. It was filled with
bags of coins, hundreds of dollars of pennies, dimes, quarters
and silver dollars—all circulated into total worthlessness. 

Nothing in that drawer was real, but there was nothing 
to get hung about. With a little help from my wife I got 
Mother to Pittsburgh and into a comfortable assisted 

living facility where golden slumbers filled her eyes, 
where she ended the wild and windy night 
of her long and winding road.

Penis Envy

The little girl envied the penis because,
as Freud wrote, she thought she’d been
castrated. Freud’s disciple, Karen Horney ,
debunked that myth by demonstrating that
 
Freud’s theory of the little girl’s castration 
was identical to his theory of the little boy’s
fantasy about what happened to the little girl. 

Horney’s truth did not set Freud free. He went 
apoplectic. Some say his cigar fell out of his mouth 
as he berated Horney for her apostacy, but then
sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

The only place I actually saw penis envy
was in the men’s locker room at my gym
in Pittsburgh where the slongs were on view

for all the asses to assess. Imagine my skin-cobwebs
while Dr. B, a senior analyst at the Pittsburgh Psycho-
analytic Institute, stood next to me, jay naked, and
obsessively flipped his scrotum with his hairy hand.

Slap! Slap! Slap! Its vocabulary was trochaic:
fleshy punches that punctuated his speech.
So, when I resigned from the Pittsburgh Institute,

gave up my faculty spot there, I sacrificed my 
opportunity to otherwise enjoy Dr. B’s company
with his slaphappy scrotum. Freud wrote that
psychoanalysis was the “impossible profession.”

Had he had a premonition of analysts like Dr. B
thoughtlessly flicking their kerbangers with 
impunity? Could that be why Freud sat outside  

of the patient’s view—so no one could see what 
the analyst was flipping? Or had Freud discovered 
an ancient, heretofore forgotten, Zen koan: 
What is the sound of one scrotum flapping?

Late Lament

Covered in the shroud of youth, I watched 
so many funny, fine, and profound men 
die from drink. I didn’t let it sadden me.

I got angry instead.

Bob who used to say he wouldn’t let
his female doctor touch his perogies,
Carlos who called me his compadre,

Eugene whose last signature 
on a consent form resembled
grapevine engravings on tombstones,

Mr. Jones who refused to eat, 
would only drink milk, produced
the most foul-smelling pure protein poops,

or Jack, the former prizefighter and 
champion drinker whom we all loved 
and who, when asked to name the president

during his mental status examination,
confabulated that he couldn’t keep up
with everything in the hospital: 

They don’t give me newspapers in here, he said.

I tested their poop, gathered their spit,
measured and emptied their urine, 
massaged their feet and backs,

transported their bones and blood,
reverently deposited their waists 
down the conveyances of the 

hospital industrial complex, bundled 
them lovingly, put them on gurneys, 
and took them to the morgue.

Today, fifty years later,
I cry for these men who broke 
my heart over and over

when I was nineteen and had 
just begun to inflate my lungs 
with the breath of hope.

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